Purchasing a home shouldn’t be a leap of faith. You’re already spending a lot of money up-front on your down payment and closing costs, and maybe new furniture and a moving company. Hiring a home inspector is an additional cost. I don’t recommend skipping this step completely (you should probably hire an inspector after you move in, even if you waived your inspection). When you’re in the house hunting process, these are a few things to watch out for if you’re not hiring that home inspector:
Roof – Bring a ladder and a flashlight to your viewing, don’t be shy. Get eye level with the roof. Determine what type of material it’s made out of. In most cases it will be asphalt shingles, you might also see concrete tiles, terracotta tiles, wood shakes and metal. Look for broken or missing tiles and shingles (this will be easy to spot because most roofing materials create a repeating pattern), these are potential leak points. Put your hand on the asphalt shingles – rougher shingles (more grit) generally means newer. Grit erodes over time; older asphalt shingle roofs feel smoother to the touch. Bring that ladder to the attic hatch and look inside. Shine your light at the underside of the roof, look for staining, mold and any other signs of moisture.
If you see active leaks, moisture in the attic, staining on the sheetrock ceiling below the roof, missing shingles, cracked or old shingles, the home will likely require roof repairs or replacement. Call a roofing professional for a quote.
Windows – It will be easy to spot older windows and doors. Look for yellowing on the frames if they’re plastic, look for metal frames with single layers of glass, look for condensation between the glass. All of these items are indicators that you may need to replace some or all of the windows.
Plumbing Leaks and Soft Floors or Walls Around Plumbing Fixtures Plumbing leaks are one thing: these are often easy repairs to make for a plumbing professional or a handyman. Damaged floors and walls are a much bigger concern, more expensive to repair and could pose a health or safety risk to you and your household. If you see a problem and can’t identify the source or perform a thorough analysis of the extent of damage, call a professional.
Electrical Look at the outlets and look at the electrical panel. Watch out for outlets with only two prongs and look around for broken outlets. Two prong outlets often suggest that the wiring is outdated and ungrounded. Broken outlets pose a safety risk to the household.
At the panel, look for uncovered holes where a breaker used to be, look for unmatched screws around the cover and missing screws. These are clues that unpermitted, DIY electrical work has taken place; the electrical may require a more thorough assessment by a professional.
Age of Furnace, Air Conditioner, Water Heater, Kitchen Appliances All of these appliances, when well-maintained, can last many years longer than their industry defined lifespan. If they haven’t been maintained, they could fail during your first week in the house. Any appliance over 15 years in age is at, or nearing the end of its service life. Verify that the appliance works during your viewing and have the appliance professionally maintained when you move in.
This is a shortlist of things to look for: a full home inspection covers these items and a whole lot more. A good inspector will provide maintenance recommendations, have subcontractor recommendations and sometimes has an idea of cost-to-repair. No list in a blog will overcome the benefit of an inspection by a Licensed Home Inspector.